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UK seeks backing for Somalia action

Britain is pushing for a United Nations resolution that would help pull Somalia back from the grip of pirates and terrorists.

UN Security Council experts are discussing a strategy that would see the African Union force in Somalia extended from 12,000 to about 17,700 troops.

A spokesman for the UK mission to the UN said it wanted to "take advantage of what we see as a window of opportunity" to render al-Shabab militants "ineffective as a military force".

A draft resolution is expected to be circulated, with a view to the resolution being adopted on Wednesday, a day before Britain stages a major conference aimed at breaking up the "business model" used by pirates in Somalia.

Senior representatives from more than 40 governments and international organisations will attend the London Somali Conference, starting on February 23 and hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which aims to develop a new approach to tackle the threat of piracy.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the UK's ambassador to the UN, has said the purpose of the conference is to take advantage of the opportunity created by the military pressure on al-Shabab by a combination of the AU force, known as Amisom, and Kenyan forces.

Meanwhile, a new state-of-the-art global anti-piracy centre has been unveiled.

The intelligence hub has been set up by analysts Dryad Maritime in Portsmouth, Hampshire, to manage an international response to the threat of pirates which is costing shipping companies millions of pounds each year. The centre is manned round-the-clock by a team of ex-Royal Navy warfare specialists and intelligence experts.

A Dryad Maritime spokeswoman explained: "To seafarers, the centre is a lifeline. It tells them where the pirates are, where they are headed and what they look like. When too close for comfort, the centre warns ships and they are diverted to safer waters."

Karen Jacques, chief operating officer at Dryad Maritime, said: "We expect the threat from piracy to continue, we are investing heavily in infrastructure and technology to give our clients an outsourced operations centre that rivals any naval force."

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